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Paracellular nutrient absorption in a gum-feeding new world primate, the common marmoset Callithrix jacchus

McWhorter, T.J. and Karasov, W.H. (2007) Paracellular nutrient absorption in a gum-feeding new world primate, the common marmoset Callithrix jacchus. American Journal of Primatology, 69 (12). pp. 1399-1411.

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The common marmoset is one of the few callitrichid species that is not threatened or endangered in the wild, and is widely used in biomedical research, yet relatively little is understood about its digestive physiology. Dietary specialization on plant exudates has lead to relatively reduced small intestines, yet the common marmoset has exceptional dietary breadth, allowing it to successfully utilize a variety of habitats. We predicted that passive, paracellular nutrient absorption would be used by the common marmoset to a greater extent than in other non-flying mammals. We measured the bioavailability and rates of absorption of two metabolically inert carbohydrates not transported by mediated pathways (L-rhamnose and cellobiose, molecular masses of 164 and 342, respectively) to measure paracellular uptake, and of a non-metabolized D-glucose analog (3-O-methyl-D-glucose) to measure total uptake by both mediated and paracellular pathways. We found high bioavailability of 3-O-methyl-D-glucose (83 ± 5%), and much higher bioavailability of the paracellular probes than in similarly sized non-flying mammals (30 ± 3% and 19 ± 2% for L-rhamnose and cellobiose, respectively). Passive, paracellular nutrient absorption accounts for around 30% of total glucose absorption in common marmosets and intestinal permeability is significantly higher than in humans, the only other species of primate measured to date. This may allow the common marmoset to maintain high digestive efficiency when feeding on higher quality foods (fruit, arthropods, gums with higher proportions of simple sugars), in spite of relatively reduced small intestines correlated with adaptations for fermentative digestion of plant gums. We find no evidence to support, in primates, the hypothesis that reliance on paracellular nutrient absorption should increase with body size in mammals, but suggest instead that it may be associated with small body size and/or taxon-specific adaptations to diet.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc.
Copyright: © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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